The animated feature “Minions: The Rise of Gru”. Comcast Corp (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal images combined with Enlightenment ended the four-day Independence Day weekend with $125.1 million in US ticket sales, a new record for the holiday’s box office.
In comparison, the other major animated film in theatrical release, “Lightyear,” fails Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) pixar Division, generated just $7.86 million over the four-day weekend and ranked sixth among films on the big screen.
Lightyear gobbled up $51 million when it opened over the weekend of June 17-19, but it took second place among releases that weekend and never managed to surpass that level. The film is now in its third week of its theatrical release and is tanking while two films that have been in theaters for extended periods – the Outstanding (NASDAQ: PARAA) Universal’s “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World Dominion” — have been in theaters for six and four weeks, respectively, and still topped “Lightyear” for the top-grossing film of the holiday weekend. To date, “Lightyear” has grossed $106.6 million in US ticket sales.
How did Minions: The Rise of Gru create such a sensation? And where did Disney go wrong with “Lightyear”? There are three key areas to understanding how this situation came about.
See also: Analysis: Which films audiences wanted (and disliked) in the first half of 2022.
Timing is everything: First, the timing of a film — particularly a family-friendly cartoon — is critical to its commercial viability. Universal originally planned to release Minions: The Rise of Gru for Independence Day weekend in 2021, but chose to shelve the film – a brilliant move in hindsight given that US theaters are only just starting months after began to resume full operations during pandemic-related lockdowns, followed by periods of government-mandated limited viewing capacity.
Also, the revived summer 2021 box office was fueled by action-adventure franchises rather than family-oriented productions. Universal had the capacity to shelf Minions: The Rise of Gru for a year for a July 2022 release, when pandemic restrictions had already faded and families were excited for the Fourth of July fun; It also helped that no other major film was being released nationally at the time.
Disney opened Lightyear on June 17, one week after the premiere of Jurassic World Dominion and four weeks after the premiere of Top Gun. Conceptually, this opening made sense – big films tend to snare most of their audiences on an opening weekend and lose their box office appeal with each passing weekend.
In this case the opposite has happened. Jurassic World Dominion overtook Lightyear as the weekend’s highest-grossing film with box office sales of $57.1 million, while Top Gun: Maverick grossed $40 million. Disney seriously misjudged the impact of “Jurassic World Dominion” and “Top Gun: Maverick” on audiences – perhaps “Lightyear” would have registered more vibrancy if it debuted in August during a slower box office period?
See also: Analysis: Why did ‘Elvis’ underperform at the box office?
Merchandising Mania: When Disney knows how to make anything, they create a merchandising opportunity out of their vehicles. This became clear with “Lightyear”, with which license agreements were concluded mattel (NASDAQ:MAT), Lego and light lifewhile blog WeAreMovieGeeks.com reported that the “Lightyear” logo appeared on Scuderia Ferrari drivers’ cars, helmets and racing suits Charles Leclerc and Carlo Sainz during the Monte Carlo Grand Prix in May – Leclerc and Sainz made cameo appearances in the Italian and Spanish versions of the film, respectively.
But Universal went the proverbial extra mile when it came to merchandising Minions: The Rise of Gru. According to a Deadline report, the Minons have appeared in advertising and merch McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCD), Levi Strauss & Co. (NYSE: LEVI), Dine Brands Global (NYSE:DIN) I JUMP Restaurant chain, the soda brand olipopthe sunscreen brand supergoop! and the mealkit company Hello Fresh. Two other ubiquitous advertisers also brought in the Minions for their first film cross promotions: CarMax (NYSE:KMX) and Mutual liberty insurance.
Bad press vs. well-dressed press: Lightyear was the uniquely family-focused film that hit theaters with a baggage of controversy, ranging from grumbling within Pixar that its previous three feature films were streamed direct to Disney+, to the question of a replacement Tim Allen as the voice of the Lightyear character Chris Evans to the inclusion of a same-sex kiss that resulted in the film being banned in China and 13 Muslim-majority markets, including Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
By comparison, Minions: The Rise of Gru hardly drew a grumble from any corner of the cinema audience. Hypebeast reported on an unexpected viral trend that included the so-called “#gentleminions” trend, with groups of teenagers in suits documenting their viewings on social media, and some theaters in the UK and other overseas markets are banning these well-dressed youngsters now people from their venues out of concern that this trend will lead to disruptive behavior. However, there were no reports of scuffles from this fashionable oaf.
Photo: Minions: The Rise of Gru, courtesy of Universal Pictures
See also: 10 Weirdest Movie Monsters Of All Time: You’ve Been Warned!
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